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Christelle Fraysse on the importance of a solid CRM system

Lucy Gillman, junior copywriter at B2B Marketing, spoke with Christelle Fraysse, CMO at

Workbooks

. Christelle discusses the role CRMs play in a seamless sales and marketing alignment, creating unified customer insight and what to keep your eye out for when it comes to integration and changes in 2022.

LG: To kick off the interview, could you please tell us a bit about yourself, Workbooks and your role in the organisation? 

I have been CMO at Workbooks for the past six years and am responsible for directing the brand, messaging, go-to-market strategies, demand generation and field sales support. Having spent the majority of my career working in IT, I have 25 years of global business experience with a focus on managing international marketing operations for global enterprise software businesses. I’m also a Fellow member of the Chartered Institute of Marketing.

Workbooks delivers cloud-based CRM and marketing automation applications to the mid-market. Our mission is to help businesses operate more successfully, by delivering an affordable solution that addresses their unique challenges and outcomes. By working consultatively with our customers, we help them grow their revenue, enhance customer experience, reduce operational costs and improve decision making. Our technology platform and consultancy extend beyond sales, marketing and customer support to include order management and fulfilment, invoicing and supplier management.

LG: Achieving sales and marketing alignment is clearly a problem within B2B spheres. What are the major challenges facing marketers when trying to get that all important alignment with sales? 

Bridging the gap between sales and marketing functions is easier said than done, with teams often relying on different approaches, using different success metrics and speaking different languages. At Workbooks, we put this alignment gap down to three things: a lack of communication, a lack of insight into each team’s customer interactions, and disparate, disconnected technologies. 

For marketers to better align with sales, it’s important to start with an open dialogue between the two departments and create a culture based on transparency. Considering whether teams are communicating as well and as often as they should and checking that each function is familiar with how the other is communicating and engaging with prospects might sound simple, but these areas are often overlooked. An agreement on common definitions and metrics is also vital if teams are to understand what’s working and where improvement is needed. 

Alignment will take time, but it will also add value to the customer journey and ensure seamless, coherent processes, supporting that journey. Sales and marketing transparency means that each team can step in and out of the process, with knowledge of the journey to date, boosting productivity and sales effectiveness. 

LG: As a follow on question, how can CRMs help with this? Why are they so important? 

CRMs provide a common lens for the entire sales funnel, allowing sales and marketing teams to measure the same pipeline process from initial marketing awareness raising all the way to a closed deal. 

Specifically, CRM systems can deliver a single source of truth, centred around the customer. They also provide sales professionals and marketers with an array of insights (through reports and dashboards) to help them make better decisions, for example full visibility of the sales pipeline and communication to date, as well as the ability to track performance and conversions at each stage of the buyer journey. From here, teams can also allocate tasks between departments, and make required changes to marketing and sales campaigns that are visible to all – a more streamlined and efficient approach.

A CRM system is both a result and a prerequisite of successful sales and marketing alignment; it requires a common language, mutual KPIs, and a willingness to collaborate. In order to bridge the gap once and for all, business leaders should seek a technology provider that wants to understand the nuances of their company and agree clear business outcomes based on individual sets of objectives, to ensure an implementation that delivers maximum return.

LG: CRMs are just one part of the martech stack. It’s not just a question of sales and marketing alignment, but how to integrate that technology into the wider business. What are some of the things that marketing should keep an eye out for? 

CRMs might be just one part of the martech stack, but they are the central pillar. A CRM system should be the ‘hub’ of sales and marketing activities, where all the metrics and information feed into. Businesses should avoid investing in other elements of the martech stack without a clear understanding of how the end-to-end journey works – for their teams internally, for prospects, and for customers. 

We have seen several clients deploy additional tech only to find it makes the lives of their sales teams more difficult because now they are working across multiple systems with inconsistent data. 

The same is true of the customer experience. It’s great if a business has an online chat facility on its website, but if this function is not connected to a CRM, chat operators are not equipped with any information on whether they are talking to a new prospect, a competitor, or their biggest customer – vital insight that should be shaping the conversation. Customers increasingly expect a joined-up experience, and CRM is central to delivering this. If additional tech is required, businesses need to ensure it is tightly integrated.

LG: It’s no secret that during the pandemic we relied more and more on technology. Did you see CRM systems becoming more important, if so, how and why?  

Remote working has accelerated the need for shared digital resources to support execution and decision making, and to energise sales and marketing alignment. The inability to run face-to-face activities and lack of in-person networking opportunities has driven marketing online. Digital engagement with prospects and customers is becoming the norm, and those with a well-implemented CRM are best placed to adapt. 

This shift has stress-tested the ability of businesses to function and perform under challenging circumstances. It has highlighted the undeniable value of digital technology – and the importance of embracing it. Analysis of CRM data has also indicated parts of a sales process that require additional resources. 

Ultimately, CRM technology provides a single view of a business. It becomes a tool for growth, where every part of the organisation is connected on a single digital platform, driving better employee collaboration, more effective prospect nurturing, and stronger customer relationships. CRM contains and integrates data that may have previously been difficult to track and provides analytics for deeper insights into a customer base. In turn, this provides businesses with the ability for stronger communications, better customer engagement and more informed, strategic decision making. 

LG: What do you think some of the core lessons marketing will need to keep in mind as we go into the new year when it comes to CRMs? How can organisations future-proof their business through these types of platforms? 

The pandemic has caused ongoing uncertainty in many markets and CRM can provide the information and clarity to help organisations attract and retain customers, and then engage with them more effectively. With successful CRM implementation, businesses with streamlined processes, improved customer experience, a more productive workforce, and accurate forecasting and reporting capabilities, are far better placed to fend off competitive threats. 

CRM provides a greater understanding of markets and customers, insight which is crucial in today’s ever-changing digital landscape. It allows businesses to make more informed decisions on how to communicate with prospects, making them far more agile, responsive, flexible, and therefore better placed to cope with any external events – now and in the future.

Moreover, unable to compete purely on price, businesses need to build close relationships with their customers. That is the path to customer loyalty, and CRM is an essential tool in achieving that.  

LG: At Workbooks, you’ve launched Workbooks in the USA in 2018. How has this transition from EMEA to the US played out and what are some of your tips for marketing teams looking to expand into new territories? 

It all starts with understanding your audience! Businesses should never assume principles they applied in the UK will work in the USA. Yes, the language is similar, but a range of factors – including buyer profiles, the buying cycle, size of the market, and competitors – are different. Identifying strong advocates to spread positive messages about a business early in the process is a powerful way to build awareness. Businesses should remain focussed on building their brand, reinforcing key messages and utilising data from CRM to deliver personalised communications that customers will be receptive to.  


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